Standing on the Shoulders of Giants - Postmortem

This game (“Shoulders” in the remaining text) is a VERY short game, so this postmortem will be short too. I entered it under a pseudonym (Ilmur Eggert).

The idea for this game was inspired by the romantic comedy movie “Kate & Leopold”, where Leopold, who invented a primitive elevator in 1876, travels forward in time to “our” present. As a consequence, all elevator shafts in the present are empty, since the elevator was never invented.

I then got this idea, that Isaac Newton would experience something similar and the consequences would be even greater. “Shoulders” is supposed to be a comedy, though without any real puns. I was hoping that the plot and situations were funny even without puns. If I could have come up with some bulletproof puns, I would certainly have included them, but I am not so confident with writing comedy so I didn’t. It wasn’t obvious to everyone, that this was a comedy, which is probably one of “Shoulders”’ weakest points. Once people think it should be taken seriously, they will start to focus on plot holes etc., which I believe will always be present in a time travel story where the future can be changed by changing the past. Some stories may hide it very well though.

Another weak point of this game is its length. I liked the idea I had, but I hadn’t really thought up some puzzles when I started working on it. In the end, the game turned out to be VERY short. At least one reviewer saw this as a missed opportunity, and I guess he is right. Still, it is my impression that a fraction of the IF community like short games too. Thus I decided to enter the IFComp with this.

It is of course perfectly fair, that even those who liked this game, won’t rate it very high in a competition like this, where most games are a lot longer. One reviewer said he completed “Shoulders” in less than 10 minutes. Of course, a two-hour-long game should be given some credit for being entertaining for a much longer time and thus I am quite sure it won’t get very high placement. But if only a few enjoyed it, that is fine with me.

“Implications” of the plot: Though the plot was never supposed to be taken very seriously, it is perfectly fair to discuss the plot. I am aware of the many illogical holes in the plot. I was actually thinking that it might be funny that the story doesn’t really make sense. As someone pointed out, the story casts Newton in a poor light. That’s true depending on how you look at it. Perhaps Newton felt an obligation to fix the future and so he kept the origin of the book a secret. We never know how far Newton would have come without the book. Perhaps the future was ruined the minute the old witch planned to send Newton to the future without guarantee of his safe return. The game doesn’t answer these questions. And I don’t try to, as I am sure there will be a lot of inconsistencies anyway. Still, comments on the plot (or anything else) are very welcome.


I thought this story was very creative. I had fun with it, and I’ve had the story pop into my head a couple of times since then.

It seems like you spent a lot of time making things ‘smooth’ for the player. How did you decide to handle giving the players hints/nudges on what to do next?

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I’m glad you liked it. I guess I have a tendency to make my games too easy, as I don’t want the game to be underclued. Normally beta-testers can help with finding the right balance, but this year I didn’t have any, as I wanted my pseudonym to be bulletproof :smiley:

Instead I played it many many times, so there was a response for the most likely commands. The beginning of the game had some introductory scenes, I didn’t feel was suited for puzzles as such. Still, I wanted that part to be driven by parser input as I think that tends to make the player feel more involved in the story. So that part would need a lot of guidance to the player to avoid a “guess what to do next”-situation which isn’t really a puzzle. So there isn’t much choice before you reach the library. Once you’re in the library, there are two puzzles: Finding the book and leaving with the book. After that, the game is once again “on rails” like the first part.

Besides people who also like short games, I have also been thinking that it might be suitable for people new to parser games.

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Thanks for writing this up! It is a pretty short game, but I know I spent a bunch of time noodling around the library, and really enjoyed finding a couple of the Easter Eggs you put in there!

On some people not realizing it was a comedy, I wonder whether some of that had to do with tone or narrative voice? I thought the matter-of-fact vibe running throughout was sometimes pretty funny (the game starting out with your friend saying “Hey Newt” made me laugh very hard!), but sometimes felt a bit understated in other situations.


In my playthrough, I didn’t read it as a comedy at all. It wasn’t until you just mentioned the “Hey Newt” thing that I even remember that was there, probably because it doesn’t maintain that anachronistic attitude anywhere else. But understanding it as a comedy makes it make a lot more sense. In that light, I think there’s a lot of potential in a game like this.

Yeah, I think you’re analysis is totally right. I didn’t think it was a comedy so I was poking around, asking questions, and trying to figure out how I was supposed to read the story.


Yes, you are probably right. The tone of the narrative voice should have been more consistently comedic to get the message through. But I am glad you found some of it funny :slight_smile:

Sounds like I am on the right track, figuring out what to do better next time. I have actually begun work on a much longer sci-fi comedy, so your feedback is very valuable. However, this time I will have beta-testers, which should also help.